How Do I know If I’m Dehydrated?

Dehydration
is a serious health concern — especially during the summer. Here are a few
symptoms to be aware of.

By Gabrielle Frank

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is in the news today after she was seen visibly
shaking while in sunny Berlin. According to NBC News,
she later stated that she hadn’t drunk enough water. It was reportedly
82-degrees Fahrenheit in Germany, and Merkel seemed to recover quickly.

How quickly can someone become dehydrated? Heat can sometimes be very subtle in how
it affects the body. If someone is out in the sun, it can happen as quickly as
30 minutes or up to a few hours for the heat to cause dehydration, nausea or
trouble concentrating, said Dr. Corey Slovis, chairman of emergency medicine at
Vanderbilt Medical Center.

When it’s hot, staying hydrated is key to staying healthy. Dehydration is a serious
health concern. A recent study published in
the American Journal of Public Health found that more than half of all children
and adolescents in the U.S. aren’t getting enough water.

“People don’t realize the amount of fluid they can lose in the heat, or while
exercising,” explained Michael F. Bergeron, Ph.D., and president and chief
executive officer of Youth Sports of the Americas. “And it’s important to note
that your hydration needs are very individual,” said Bergeron.

This health issue is more serious than you might think and could land you in the
hospital.

How much liquid do we need each day? It depends. Here are a few signs you might be
dehydrated and tips to stay healthy all summer long.

1. Increased thirst and a dry or sticky mouth

“If you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated,” explained Dr. Laura Goldberg of Cleveland
Clinic Sports Health
. The easiest remedy is to start drinking water
(and beverages with electrolytes) as soon as you notice this, but try not to
let yourself get to this point.

Heat stroke occurs when the body temperature gets above 105 degrees. “One of
the earliest signs of a heat-related illness is just not feeling right,”
said Slovis. “There’s no one specific symptom.”

The best way to prevent this from happening is to meet your daily hydration needs,
for women, the National Academy of Sciences
recommends
 2.7 liters of water a day (about 11.4 cups), and for
men, 3.7 liters (15 cups). Try to drink more water if
you’ve spent excessive time in the sun, or exercising.

2. Signs of fatigue,
confusion or anger

Studies have found that mild levels of
dehydration can affect your mood and cognitive functions. This is especially
common in the young or elderly, who may seem less alert, or forgetful.

study from the University of Connecticut’s Human Performance Laboratory found that even mild
dehydration can alter a person’s mood, energy and ability to think clearly. The
researchers defined mild dehydration as an approximately 1.5% loss in normal
water volume in the body — and the adverse reaction is the same whether you’re
exercising or sitting still.

3. Dry eyes or blurred vision

Dehydration can result in a headache or migraine, light headedness or delirium. “I’ve seen
marathon runners running in zigzags because they’re dehydrated. You can’t make
decisions and feel delirious,” elaborated Goldberg.

“When you’ve been exercising for a long time, you’re sweating and your overall body
fluid goes down — this can result in dry eyes or blurred vision,” said
Goldberg, who also noted that any part of the body that is normally moist is
going to feel dry or irritated.

“Monitor your hydration levels and make sure you’re drinking throughout any form of
exercise,” she explained further.

4. Headaches or
disorientation

“You
may also experience weakness, dizziness, or nausea, because the body doesn’t
have enough fluid to send to other parts of the body. This could also result
in heat exhaustion. You can
collapse if you don’t stop exercising and cool down,” warned Bergeron, who also
added that these specific symptoms can also be signs of over hydration, so be
aware of how much you’re drinking.

5. Muscle cramps

“If you’ve been exercising, it’s natural for your legs to feel tired, but if it’s
more than that and you’re experiencing muscle cramping, that’s a serious sign
of dehydration,” Goldberg explained. This is because of the loss of water and
salt in the body — you also might experience tightness in your muscles, instead
of cramping.

 “Wandering and progressively widespread muscle
cramping is a certain clue of a sodium deficit and dehydration in the fluid
spaces surrounding certain muscles,” Bergeron elaborated. “But don’t confuse it
with an overworked muscle which would just affect a small area.”

To prevent this from occurring, it’s important to drink sports beverages that
contain sodium, or snack on salted pretzels or low-fat cheeses. The sodium
helps your body to re-hydrate and retain the water.

6. Lack of sweat

According
to Goldberg, this is one of the more serious signs of dehydration. It means
your body is in dire need of water. Though, on the other hand, Bergeron notes
that more likely it may be a sign of overheating or heat stroke — though either
can occur in the presence of continued sweating. Either way, it’s crucial to
cool down rapidly if you’re not sweating anymore.

7. Dark urine

“Straw-colored
or light yellow urine means you’re properly hydrated. If your urine is dark, or
if there’s blood in your pee, you need to stop exercising immediately,” warned
Goldberg. Notably, perfectly clear urine may mean that you are over-hydrated.

8. Fever

“Dehydration can lead to hyperthermia and a fever-like symptoms (e.g. chills) because
over-heating can alter your body’s normal temperature ‘set point,’” explained
Goldberg. Excessive overheating is an urgent red flag. Stop exercising
immediately, take an ice bath and hydrate.

9. Shriveled and dry skin

If your skin is hydrated, it will appear doughy. If you’re dehydrated, your skin will
lack elasticity and won’t bounce back. “If you pinch your skin and it appears
thin and doesn’t melt back onto your body quickly, you’re dehydrated,” said
Goldberg.

Some key things to remember when exercising in the summer is that the longer you’re
working out, the more water you need. Also, plain water is good for you, but a
combination of water, electrolytes and sodium is really the best way to stay
hydrated.

It’s also crucial to understand that hydrating properly isn’t 100% preventative, if
you’re working too hard and too long in the summer heat, you can still overheat
no matter how much water your drinking. So be aware of your body and stop what
you’re doing if you notice any of these symptom.

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